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Crystal City-Based FarmRaiser Looks to Build Better Fundraisers

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

When schools, booster clubs, scout troops or any number of other organizations need support, they often turn to their communities with a product for sale.

But when Mark Abbott’s kids had to fundraise with products  “that were expensive and not healthy,” it “just did not seem like a 21st century solution to the problem of under-resourced schools,” Abbott said.

So, Abbott founded FarmRaiser, an online platform “with a goal of creating healthy fundraisers that also helped local farmers and food artisans,” that launched in May 2015, Abbott said.

FarmRaiser, which moved to Crystal City in 2017, connects organizations looking to fundraise with local suppliers of goods like fresh produce, dark chocolate and granola.

Typically, the cause and suppliers share sales revenue in about a 50/50 split, with a small amount going to FarmRaiser, Abbott said.

FarmRaiser also works with “food aggregators” like The Common Market to “get product to all of our schools” from the local sellers, Abbott said.

The model FarmRaiser uses looks to benefit all parties involved — in school fundraisers, for instance, students can learn about the benefits of eating healthy, local food, Abbott said. For community members purchasing FarmRaiser goods, “you know that a good portion of your check went to the cause,” he said. And suppliers on the FarmRaiser platform can support good causes in a way that benefits them “as well as the cause,” Abbott said.

“At the very end of the campaign… the supplier gets a check for the amount of goods that were ordered and they get email contacts for all of the folks who have bought that product,” Abbott said.

In 2017, over $600,000 worth of merchandise was sold through the FarmRaiser platform, Abbott said. This year, they expect that number to increase between three- and four-fold.

“A good portion of that growth [is] coming from other types of companies that are doing fundraising now,” Abbott said, like garden seed companies or cut flower stores.

Those companies adopt FarmRaiser’s system, which “is pretty much automated from A to Z,” Abbott said.

FarmRaiser is a “venture-backed company,” Abbott said. They’ve done two full rounds of funding, through which they raised “just over a million dollars,” supporting two versions of the platform, Abbott said. They’re also closing a seed series round that includes funding from angel investors and Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology.

“The goal is to grow big enough that we can do maybe an institutional round of funding before we’re self-sufficient,” Abbott said.

In measuring the success of the company, “of course, common metrics for us are the amount of merchandise that’s sold on the platform, but we also think about… the amount of kind of sugar and preservatives that we divert from family households,” Abbott said. Whenever someone sells a healthier product, “we consider that a win.”

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Crystal City-Based Fifth Tribe Works to Craft Innovative Digital Approaches

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

In its fifth stage, a tribe can “achieve things that are inconceivable,” according to “Tribal Leadership,” a book that describes levels of company culture.

Digital agency Fifth Tribe seeks to exist at that level as it works to help organizations use technology to better engage with users.

Founded in 2012 and based in the 1776 incubator space, Fifth Tribe works in product innovation, branding and design, web and mobile development and digital marketing.

Among the approximately 50 clients Fifth Tribe has worked with since its founding are AARP and the Vatican. The former was looking for help reaching more low-income seniors.

“They basically hired us to come up with ways they can leverage technology to accomplish that goal,” said Adam Motiwala, a partner at Fifth Tribe.

When the Vatican was working to create a fund for startups to combat climate change last year, Fifth Tribe helped with branding, web development and getting people to sign up online, Motiwala said.

“The primary use of the project that we built for them was to help them tell their story and to help companies join and basically apply for the program when they launched the site,” he said.

As digital advertising overtakes traditional formats, like TV and radio, Fifth Tribe is also investing in new, innovative approaches to reaching online consumers, like gaming.

Typical forms of web advertising, like display and video ads, are “really intrusive, and people hate them,” Fifth Tribe CEO Khuram Zaman said.

In contrast, games represent “something that’s more experiential,” Fifth Tribe CTO Asif Khan said. And they have their “own inherent enjoyment,” he added. “It happens to be sponsored by this brand, but it’s enjoyable in and of itself.”

Fifth Tribe is currently working on games with four e-commerce clients — some of the games they’ve launched so far can be viewed here.

“It’s to create a way for people to really have these positive memories around these brands rather than having another banner ad that you’ve seen a billion of,” Khan said.

Fifth Tribe sees engaging in activities outside the office, like bike rides, escape rooms or laster tag, as complimenting the company’s interests rather than competing with them, Zaman said.

Though “a lot of the breakthrough moments happen in the office,” many also happen out of the office, Zaman said. “Small teams can do great things if they’re put in the right sort of conditions.”

The members of Fifth Tribe’s team “want to have a work-life balance and they also want to have the ability to do things that have an impact,” Zaman said. “As a result, we attract clients who are seeking to have an impact.”

The startup also pursues projects with an impact through typically staff-only hackathons.

“A lot of our hackathons are oriented toward not really business problems but macro-level… social problems,” Zaman said. Hackathon products have included a platform to connect refugees seeking help with tasks like translation with volunteers, and a mechanism to track pro- and anti-ISIS Twitter users.

Fifth Tribe is currently financed via bootstrapping, something that Khan said has helped sustain its culture.

“We’ve bootstrapped in part because once you have investors, it changes how you work the company,” Khan said. “In the founding of the company, the culture was very important… the reason we’ve been able to maintain that is because we haven’t tried to get outside financing.”

Ultimately, “our goal is to build a company that we’re proud of,” Zaman said. “We love our clients [and] we try to do the best work that we can.”

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Crystal City-Based Sekoyia Strives to Make Sustainability More Accessible

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations. 

For Sekoyia founder and CEO Gareth Lewis, adopting a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle requires making a shift — much like establishing a gym regimen or trying a new diet.

But when Lewis got involved in promoting sustainability, he found that it can be “daunting and overwhelming… and there’s no easy way for someone to start making an impact,” he said.

Sekoyia, which is based in Crystal City, represents a tool for easing that transition.

“It’s our mission to empower individuals to make a positive and measurable environmental impact… by incrementally shifting their lifestyle,” Lewis said.

The “primary product” Sekoyia offers is a series of subscription boxes that enable users to “switch out some of the older things in our lifestyle with more sustainable options,” Lewis said.

The boxes are built into a six-month sequence with each focused on a theme, like energy, water or waste.

In addition to providing more sustainable versions of products like dish soap and resealable bags, boxes include “actions and challenges” that align with that month’s theme.

They also come with “impact tracking,” so users can see their individual impact along with “the whole collective impact of the Sekoyia community,” Lewis said.

The water box, for instance, lets each user save four kiddie pools-worth of water, $50 over a year, 41 pounds of waste and five-days-worth of cow farts (which emit methane).

A mechanical engineer by trade, Lewis began working on Sekoyia part time out of 1776 incubator space last year. In June, he transitioned to Sekoyia full time.

“My concern for climate change got to the point where I really had to do this full time,” Lewis said.

So far, Lewis has bootstrapped Sekoyia, meaning he’s personally funded the startup. Their team currently consists of Lewis, a CMO and two interns.

Lewis has applied for a WeWork Creator Award, which would give him the funding to pursue the “aggressive” goal of hitting 50,000 subscribers within a year, he said.

The subscription boxes are “the starting point” for Sekoyia, Lewis said.

“Ideally there would be some political action as well, and I think education is a huge part of that,” he said. Future initiatives could also include cleanup efforts and work to connect businesses with local sustainable services, like composting.

“I think that’s really the way that this has to go in the future if this is going to be successful,” Lewis said.

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Rosslyn-Based HUNGRY Looks to Continue Expansion

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A catering startup with an appetite for growth is looking to establish a presence well beyond the D.C. metro area.

HUNGRY, launched in late 2016, plans to have its platform available in Philadelphia later this quarter, and has big plans for the future.

“I think it’s really a testament to… the success that we’re seeing here in Washington,” company chairman Jeff Grass said. “We’ve already tripled sales since the beginning of the year, and we expect to continue to see… growth in the second half of the year.”

Based in Rosslyn, HUNGRY has raised $4.5 million in seed funding since its founding. Later this year, they’ll aim to raise between roughly $7 and $10 million in “Series A” financing, according to Grass.

That funding “would really give us the resources to take what we’ve demonstrated to be successful here and sort of roll it out everywhere,” Grass said.

HUNGRY works with local chefs — around 50 in the D.C. area — to provide high-quality office catering options “at a Panera price point,” Grass said.

The company’s roster of chefs includes Chopped champions, former White House chefs and the former personal chef to Pitbull. Their “at least” two to three hundred clients include “tons” in Arlington and companies like Amazon and Microsoft, Grass said.

“We created this really first ever platform that [connects] offices with top local chefs and we do it in this way that makes it really reliable and really efficient,” Grass said.

The desire for higher quality office catering “is not a D.C. specific phenomenon,” Grass said. “We see opportunity across the country, if not the world.”

HUNGRY also aims to give back to the communities in which they operate by working to fight hunger. For every two meals ordered, HUNGRY donates a meal to a partner like the Arlington Food Assistance Center, Grass said.

And “the cutlery and plates and napkins and things that come with HUNGRY catering are all made of corn, so they’re fully compostable and biodegradable,” Grass said.

Grass sees HUNGRY as different from competitors like ezCater, which recently raised $100 million in venture financing, for several reasons.

“At the core, we are the only ones working directly with top [local] chefs,” Grass said. “You’ve got all these really interesting chefs with different backgrounds. That is fundamentally different than anything the competition can provide.”

Ultimately, “we think we’ve got a really elegant model that does it in a way that really benefits everybody that we touch,” Grass said.

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Crystal City-Based Eminent IT Aims to Revamp Aging Technology

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Government agencies rely on technology for daily operations and to plan for the future, just like any business these days. But the applications they use can be so outdated that they’re no longer effective, and leave agencies vulnerable to cyber threats.

“Every organization has the equivalent of their own app store, but they don’t update those apps,” Isaac Barnes said. “Imagine having a phone where all your apps are still from 2007 or 2008.”

Barnes is the chief technology officer and vice president of Eminent IT, a software and services firm with clients in the Department of Defense, the intelligence community and elsewhere in the executive branch.

“The primary focus is on IT modernization and transformation,” Barnes said. “And that’s a very big way of saying we help organizations fix their aging technology.”

Keeping old systems in place is like “if you have a lock on the door at your house and it’s been proven that lock has been picked many different times and… you’re still leaving that lock,” Barnes said.

Because they can offer clients “initial building blocks,” Eminent IT is able to modernize systems in much less time than without their platform, Barnes said.

“If you’re building a blog, you can use WordPress,” Barnes said “We built… a WordPress-like framework.”

The company also works with technology partners in fields like blockchain to “help bring emerging technologies to these agencies,” Barnes said. And a product entitled Revamp acts as “a foundation for us to build applications quicker for our customers,” Barnes said.

Eminent IT was founded in 2009, but it wasn’t until 2013 that they started working to scale up their operations, Barnes said. The company is entirely owned by Barnes and José Risi, both Marine Corps veterans.

“José and I the same day decided to start businesses and the plan was [whenever] we get the first contract, we’re just going to merge those companies into one company,” Barnes said. That merger happened around 2011.

With a team of about 24 people, mostly millennials, the company is focused on continuing to grow.

“Most of the federal workforce is focused on improving their technology and they’re looking to our generation to help them do that, and that’s what we’ve honed in on,” Barnes said.

Coming off a recent contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — “one of the strategic organizations for us, because they’re at the heart of a lot of new technology that’s coming out,” Barnes said — they’re looking to become a large business.

“From a size perspective… we want to be a large business, that’s the focus,” Barnes said. “From an impact perspective, I want us to be known as the modernization experts.”

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Crystal City-Based Startup Streamlines Smart Building Management

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

(Updated 12:30 p.m.) Within one building at any given time, a soap dispenser might be running low, a toilet could be nearing overflow or power might be wasted.

Smart technologies enable building managers to monitor all of this and more — but that information isn’t always easy to manage.

Service Robotics & Technologies is a local startup looking to make it easier to use those devices and the data they collect.

“What we’re developing is a lightweight, map-based smart building management software,” CEO and founder Greg Scott said.

That software can bring together and analyze data from devices like soap dispensers, air quality sensors and floor cleaning robots to provide “actionable information to a building manager on a fully customizable dashboard,” Scott said.

With Scott’s background in robotics — his PhD work focused on space robotics — SRT first looked into deploying robots to perform services like vacuuming and delivery. They found, however, that “the biggest unmet need was actually not in the robotics sector,” but instead in the “industry of building management,” Scott said.

Without SRT, a building manager who wants to use five different sensors might need to acquire and learn five separate software packages in order to track the data collected by each device.

By working with SRT, which has developed partnerships with “a number of hardware companies that have specialty products,” clients can have devices installed and receive training to manage them through one piece of software, Scott said.

“We’re able to come in and consult with clients who… haven’t yet jumped onto the smart building bandwagon and can provide a variety of options for them,” Scott said. “And even those companies… who already [have] some smart building technologies” can make use of SRT’s services, he added.

Scott began working on SRT full-time about two years ago, when he left his job at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. Though still in beta mode, SRT is “actively moving toward… formal commercialization,” Scott said.

Grants from the National Science Foundation and the Center for Innovative Technology have made up the bulk of the support for SRT’s development thus far, Scott said, though there has been some outside investment and the company is “always looking for good investment partners.”

None of the startup’s current beta clients are located in Arlington, but Scott said he “can see a lot of benefits of how our product can work in the Arlington area,” particularly in places like Rosslyn and Crystal City with larger buildings.

“Being able to provide that actionable information is able to streamline staff time, which is going to be really helpful for the operational type staff in the large building tier,” Scott said.

Photos courtesy Greg Scott

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Arlington-Based Whystle Sounds Product Safety Alarms Through Mobile App

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

News about high-profile product recalls seems nearly impossible to avoid — IKEA dressers in 2017, for example, or E. coli contaminated romaine lettuce earlier this year.

But in these cases and others, safety information can take too long to reach consumers, or perhaps never reach them at all. A new app aims to change that.

Whystle, which launched in late May, provides personalized safety information in a user-friendly format.

“I really have the busy parent in mind,” said Lauren Bell, Whystle’s CEO and a busy parent to four children herself. The “My Alerts” portion of the app, which collects information according to user preferences, is organized to mimic an “actionable to-do list,” Bell added.

Bell previously worked as an attorney at the Department of Justice, where she prosecuted companies whose actions threatened public safety. In that role, Bell saw that even as government agencies tried to publicize safety information, “people were still getting hurt.”

“It’s like this information wasn’t reaching them,” she said.

And while working at a law firm, Bell noted that “even the companies want people to know about this information.”

“That’s when it really crystallized for me,” she said.

Bell left her job in September to work on Whystle full time, and runs the company out of her Arlington home and the 1776 incubator space. She collaborated with Nick Jones, CEO of Richmond-based app development company NS804, on the technical side of the project, and works with a nurse practitioner to break down medical literature and Food and Drug Administration medical alerts.

“I really put a lot of time [into] thinking through each recall that I cover, [and] there’s always a ‘what to do’ at the end so people can feel some control,” Bell said.

For now, Whystle is available for free, and Bell said they plan to see how much they can grow before working out monetization.

“It’s not that expensive to run, so for now we’re hoping to just be as useful as we can to users [and] grow our user base,” Bell said, adding that, if necessary, “we can find a home somewhere within an existing parenting app or another service.”

Early updates to the app will enable users to share alerts on social media. Eventually, Bell envisions a platform to which users can import their purchases, enabling them to receive recall notifications automatically.

Bell said she decided she wanted to work in public health in college, after her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, and she sees Whystle as a natural extension of that dream.

“My mom used to always cut out articles in the newspaper and send them to us,” Bell said. “That’s outdated, but that’s sort of what [this] is — that there’s someone looking out for you.”

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Rosslyn-Based Dynos Wants to Make it Easier to Find Restaurant Discounts in Arlington

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

When Aaron Rutter and Sahaj Sharda were randomly paired as freshman roommates at Georgetown University almost two years ago, they had no idea they would soon become business partners.

“Sahaj had bought a whiteboard for the room… just because he had thought that’s what app creators do,” Rutter said. “Throughout the entire year, we were continually coming up with new ideas, new apps, new concepts and at one point we just got to Dynos.”

Dynos — a play on “dynamic pricing” — is a free app that offers users discounts at several restaurants near Georgetown, and soon, they hope, throughout Arlington.

When Dynos launched in beta mode in March, it was available only to Georgetown students and accrued more than 1,000 users, Rutter said. Now, anyone can download the app, and Rutter and Sharda have plans to expand well beyond their college campus this summer.

“Right now, we’re actually focusing on keeping Georgetown and expanding through Arlington… with the target audience being everyone, not just students,” Rutter said.

Dynos also launched a “$1,000 Campus Challenge” as a way to “break in to areas outside” D.C. and Virginia, Rutter said. College-age participants can earn up to $1,000 for signing up restaurants near their universities.

Since they don’t charge either restaurants or customers to use the app, Dynos currently relies on the support of two companies: Miracle Systems, a Rosslyn-based contractor lending Dynos office space, and Supersmile, an oral care company based in New York, Rutter’s home state.

“In terms of actually means of making a profit, there are about 10 or so ways that we can go about it,” Rutter said, including by introducing “advertisements or charging a fee on either end.” At this point, however, their priority is “not deterring anyone from using the app,” Rutter added.

This is not Sharda’s first venture in the startup world: in 2015, he worked with Ajay Maheshwari, Dynos’s chief technology officer, to develop Notify Anywhere. That project, a platform that allows group leaders to send alerts to a list of contacts, also partnered with Miracle Systems.

In April, Sharda released a book about dynamic pricing. For Dynos, dynamic pricing means that the discounts restaurants offer are “based off of supply and demand,” Rutter said.

“By us helping [restaurants] to serve more food and draw in more customers, we’re cutting down their food waste,” he said.

Arlington businesses have thus far been supportive of the young startup’s efforts to expand, Rutter added.

“It’s just been shocking how helpful they are and how [good] of a community it is, where everyone knows each other… whereas in D.C. we had nothing like that,” Rutter said.

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Arlington-Based Decision Lens Develops the Science of Choice

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

(Updated at 2:05 p.m.) In a post-Moneyball world, data analysis has become an integral part of decision making in the world of sports and beyond.

Ballston-based Decision Lens — whose services have been used by the Oakland Athletics and Green Bay Packers along with federal agencies and pharmaceutical companies — helps organizations move away from “advocacy-based approaches,” where whoever has “the loudest voice or biggest gavel” gets the final say, said John Saaty, CEO and co-founder of Decision Lens.

Instead, Decision Lens staff works with companies to develop criteria that capture their priorities. Its 100 government and commercial clients have access to a software program which uses that criteria to provide scenario and data analysis, among other services.

“When people see a much more effective and vigorous way to drive planning and improve it over time, they don’t go back to conference tables,” Saaty said.

John Saaty and his brother Dan Saaty launched Decision Lens in 2005 with around five employees. John focused on the company’s growth and management, while Dan developed the design of the software.

Although some people find the idea of working with a sibling “just abhorrent, we sort of complement each others skills,” John Saaty said.

In 2014, Decision Lens made headlines for receiving $6.5 million in investment to service the more than 80 “enterprise-level” customers it boasted at the time. Now, Decision Lens has around 60 employees, and retains all of the clients who began using the service in 2005, Saaty said.

Decision Lens’s model is grounded in analytic hierarchy process, an approach to decision-making developed by John Saaty’s father, Thomas Saaty, while he was working at the State Department during the Cold War.

“What he found is we had no way to really make tradeoffs among different priorities that we were trying to accomplish in the negotiations with the Soviets,” John Saaty said. This finding prompted Thomas Saaty to develop “a mathematical theory that actually quantified… tangible and intangible factors in a negotiation.”

Decision Lens has worked to expand over the years with its “growth mindset,” John Saaty said.

“I always tell people there [are] two things you can be certain of: one of them is that change is going to be the norm… and the second thing I tell them is this year will be the worst year we have going forward,” he said.

Accordingly, Decision Lens is not planning to slow down anytime soon — in about six months, they plan to launch a new service to streamline government planning and budgeting, Saaty said.

The company has previously worked with government agencies like the Defense Health Agency and Federal Aviation Administration to allocate around $30 billion and $2 billion in funding, respectively. The cost of a Decision Lens license depends on the size of the client’s budget.

Saaty also lauded the benefits of being located in Arlington, citing resources like Arlington Economic Development, the Ballston Business Improvement District and the young, driven workforce.

As the company aims to grow more, Saaty envisions a world where “Decision Lens” becomes “almost like a verb” — where it is commonplace to ask, “did you Decision Lens this?”

“Our goal going forward is to be the standard in planning and budgeting,” Saaty said.

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Media Startup Axios Grows into New Space in Clarendon

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Less than two years ago, Politico alumni Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen and Roy Schwartz struck out and launched Axios, a media startup with a single goal: to “help people get smarter, faster.”

Since then, the company has grown so rapidly that it needed to leave behind its old office space at the MakeOffice coworking space at 3100 Clarendon Boulevard. But Axios isn’t going far — on May 30, the company moved in to new digs on the 13th floor of the same office building, on a 10-year lease.

Downstairs, they were “bursting at the seams,” Schwartz said. “I don’t think we had a free chair.”

The company’s Clarendon headquarters currently houses around 85 employees, of over 115 total. By the end of 2018, Axios aims to grow its staff to 150 across its Clarendon, New York and San Francisco offices.

Schwartz believes the 13th floor space will allow the startup to grow in a location that is the “physical manifestation of our principles.”

From conference rooms with glass walls labeled with Axios catch phrases (“Axioms”) like “Be Smart” and “Between the Lines,” to wood tables built in Wisconsin by VandeHei’s brother, the office is full of personal touches.

“We wanted an environment… where everyone felt that they belong,” Schwartz said.

The company’s work to build an inclusive culture is evident within and beyond its workspace, which includes a gender-neutral restroom and glass rooms to promote transparency. Placards on shared desks include names, titles, and short “why I matter” statements. And when new employees start, they input their pronouns on collaboration software Slack, according to company spokeswoman Megan Swiatkowski.

Employees have plenty of spaces to work, take breaks or perhaps do both: for instance, in a conference room with a table that can be converted for impromptu ping pong games or on treadmills that double as desks.

An area dubbed “Relaxios” features picturesque views of Arlington, and windows in the office’s kitchen capture D.C. landmarks like the Washington Monument. Instead of using the Relaxios space for something like an executive’s office, Axios has “democratized all the views,” Schwartz said.

Near the entrance, “Snaxios” offers a wide selection of food, from Goldfish to fruit and candy.

With interns starting today and the “People Operations” team reviewing applications for a number of open positions, Axios isn’t looking to slow down anytime soon.

“The space allows us to have the freedom to grow,” Schwartz said.

Check out more photos of Axios’s new space after the jump:

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Crystal City Entrepreneur Branches Out with Expanded Floral Startups

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

(Updated at noon) When Shavanna Miller’s Bloompop was featured in an April 2014 edition of “Startup Monday,” it had been just seven months since the company’s official launch. At the time, the Crystal City company sought to connect high-quality florists across the country with customers in their communities who might otherwise order arrangements from larger businesses — but plenty has changed since then.

“When we launched, we were… competing in the same space as the larger flower companies people would know about, like 1-800-Flowers,” Miller said. They were also competing with another D.C. area startup: the expanding direct-to-consumer floral delivery service UrbanStems.

After curating a base of florists to serve the D.C. area, Bloompop expanded its reach to offer gift order services across the country. Although Bloompop still takes gift orders, the company now serves primarily corporate customers, often providing flowers “on a weekly subscription basis to their buildings,” Miller said.

Companies on Bloompop’s client list include Tiffany & Co., fashion designer Carolina Herrera and real estate development and construction company Bozzuto. Bloompop’s reliable, creative partners give it an edge in building relationships with high-profile clients, Miller said.

“The big differentiator is that we have really beautiful designs, really high-quality design partners and florists that we work with… who are very reliable,” Miller said.

Bloompop has chosen the florists it works with carefully since its founding, when Miller would comb through online review sites to find florists with exclusively four- and five-star ratings.

“On the consumer side or on the corporate side, it’s not just any florist,” Miller said, adding that Bloompop considers questions like “who’s the best local florist?” and “who does the most unique designs?”

But Miller figured she could change things up even more. She branched out in 2016 to found Freshcut, which connects farmers in locations such as Colombia, Ecuador and the Netherlands directly with florists in the U.S. to eliminate the wholesale middleman.

When florists aim for unique designs, “it can quickly get expensive,” Miller said. “We figured out if you go directly to the source… we can get substantial discounts for our florists who can then actually pass that along to the clients in the form of better, bigger, more beautiful [and] more unique arrangements.”

To develop Freshcut, Miller applied lessons from her experience with Bloompop to work on a “much more true [minimum viable product] path,” she said. Under a MVP model, businesses develop a basic version of their product that they use to receive feedback before advancing to more complex variations.

By employing this strategy, “we were able to develop [Freshcut] for a lot less money [and] we were able to scale it up much quicker,” Miller said.

Reflecting on the past four years, Miller noted that “it’s been so long since 2014, it’d be easier to say what hasn’t changed.”

Photos via Freshcut and Bloompop websites

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Veteran-Owned, Arlington-Based Startup Helps Military Families Find Homes

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

In the span of 20 years, Ken Robbins, one of the co-founders of Millie, moved 12 times with his wife during his career in the Army.

One time Robbins moved from Arlington to Germany and then back to Arlington in just a year and a half. From all that moving, Robbins wished the military provided more information about the places he was moving to, on subjects like commuting, schools and the cost of rentals.

“The military moves about half a million people every year and they don’t provide a lot in terms of resources,” Robbins said. “They provide the moving truck, but it’s up for the family to decide where they’re going to live, rent, buy.”

Robbins’ wife is also a real estate agent in Arlington and she and Robbins collectively realized there wasn’t a country-wide network of veteran and military spouse real estate agents. Thus began the creation of Millie, an online marketplace that informs military families about their new homes.

Currently, Millie has 400 pages of content about 35 housing markets, which covers about 75 percent of the active duty military population, Robbins said. To make money, the Arlington-based startup has two features — AgentHero and Scout.

AgentHero is a service where Millie connects veterans and their spouses to real estate agents near their relocations. Millie receives a referral fee if the real estate agent closes on a deal. Robbins added that Millie only refers real estate agents that are veterans or military spouses, that have been in the business for at least five years and are in the top 15 to 20 percent of their market. Millie is currently working with roughly 700 real estate agents across the country.

Scout is a service that allows families to request a military spouse to check out a home or rental and its neighborhood for a rate typically between $50 to $75. This service is particularly for families who can’t afford to scope out a new potential home themselves, Robbins added.

Of the estimated 60,000 page views to Millie’s website, only about 1,000 people have used the services, Robbins said.

“Not everybody that consumes our content necessarily uses one of our services, and we’re completely ok with that,” he said. “That was part of the reason we built it was we wanted to help educate military families and reduce the stress especially on the military spouse so we recognize not all of them will turn into customers.”

Within the next 60 days, Millie may add a third stream for revenue by creating a content subscription page for real estate agents looking to learn more about how to better serve veterans and military families. Robbins said most people don’t realize that veterans comprise nearly 20 percent of the home buying market in the country, and this new subscription page could be a good resource for realtors looking to better understand that market.

“Most real estate agents, or a lot of them, don’t know how to speak to speak to the military community, or maybe they don’t understand what they’re going through,” Robbins said.

All of Millie’s employees are military spouses and Robbins is proud that he has found a way to serve the military community while also running a for-profit enterprise.

“Too often in the military community everything is about volunteering and non-profits and there’s a certain role for that, that’s great,” he said. “But it’s also important for us that we empower military spouses and give them the ability to earn money for their family.”

Photos courtesy Millie 

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This Crystal City-Based Startup is Looking to Bring a Renaissance to Local Political Campaigns

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Andrew Fribush, CEO of Cameral, found through his work on political campaigns in Indiana and Ohio that local races run archaically compared to the way the corporate world functions.

Presidential campaigns have the millions of dollars necessary to hire full tech teams, but local politicians can rarely afford the same luxury, Fribush says. That’s where his Crystal City-based startup comes in.

“You should have the ability to run with the same tools that businesses use to sell perfume,” Fribush said. “Who decides your taxes, who decides your water, who decides everything is far more important than what Walmart is doing. Why don’t they have the same tools Walmart does?”

Fribush says Cameral will help anyone looking to run for office, from the local level to Congress. The company is available to help would-be candidates petition to get on the ballot, and then provides a database with information on every voter in the candidate’s area. Candidates can pay for additional, more in-depth data on those voters if he or she wants to, Fribush said.

Cameral also offers an outreach service, which helps candidates post on social media and send out emails. The company even runs a “marketplace,” where Fribush and his team act as a middle man to help candidates purchase yard signs, even advertising spots. Fribush says he charges a percentage of the candidate’s fundraising generated by those ads, ranging from 5-20 percent of the total depending the size of the campaign.

“Because taking 20 percent of a senator doesn’t bother them, taking 20 percent from a local candidate can really take the lights out from under them,” Fribush said.

Even though Cameral is focused on local candidates, Frisbush says he does have one U.S. senator as a client, in addition to a host of mayors and other local politicians. Fribush says he can’t identify which candidates he’s working with, due to non-disclosure agreements he’s signed with his clients.

Fribush says most of his clients are Republicans, a fact he attributes to the GOP’s recent dominance in state and local politics nationwide, but he represents independents and Democrats as well.

Cameral only launched in 2017 and is still in beta mode, meaning it’s only accepting 25 clients, followed by a wait list. Fribush said he’s debating fully launching the services in time for the 2018 elections, but as the election grows closer he said he’s leaning toward launching it in 2020, where there will be a huge market.

Regardless of when he launches in full, Fribush hopes his company can ignite renaissance of interest in local politics by lowering the barrier to entry.

“My dream is a world where anyone who wants to run for office, whether it’s in Arlington County or anywhere, can just do it,” Fribush said. “The importance of local government cannot be overstated. Local governments in the United States are actually larger than the federal government, if you take them collectively.”

Screenshot via Cameral’s website

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Finland-based Artificial Intelligence Startup Launches Commercial Location in Arlington

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Though based in Finland, HeadAI, an artificial intelligence startup founded in 2015, also has had a commercial base in Arlington since 2017.

“Arlington is a vibrant area. There are new, innovative hubs in the U.S. and Arlington is one of those areas,” said Anu Passi-Rauste, the startup’s head of U.S. business development.

One of the key taglines on HeadAI’s website is to “create artificial labor.” This artificial labor is made possible through teachable software robots that can do everyday knowledge-based jobs. One bot can act as personal assistant learning about a subject of the owner’s choosing while another may use a bot for insights into data.

HeadAI offers multiple services whether through apps or consulting for businesses on the best way to use AI for their companies.

With any new technology, there are questions of about the future — for instance, will AI replace everyday jobs and tasks?

Passi-Rauste said AI will only create new jobs. In fact, she added that AI has only brought on new and better jobs that have helped HeadAI’s customer create more profit.

“Even when we had the hammer, it changed how we do the work, but it always also brought new work and new jobs,” Passi-Rauste said. “AI is actually not killing jobs.”

Besides consulting, HeadAI has two free apps, NewsAI and ExamineAI. NewsAI is a bot that collects news catered to subjects of the user’s interests, while ExamineAI is an AI training course on economics.

Then there’s another service HeadAI offers called Microcompetencies, which uses artificial intelligence to visualize data with maps regarding the supply and demand of job skills within a city, company or region.

“We are creating data and extracting that information needed to create these visualizations how to construct skills, what are the job skills that are high in demand in that area, in the region in the city or in the company level,” Passi-Rauste sa

Within five years, HeadAI wants to automate one billion tasks across multiple industries. But for now, Passi-Rauste just wants to see its services become a scalable model that anyone can use in the U.S.

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Glebewood-Based Startup Plotting New Strategies to Get People to the Gym

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

For the last few months, Gymaze has worked to provide Arlington gym-goers the chance to work out at a host of exercise clubs around the region without paying membership fees; now, the company has big plans to encourage people to work out together.

One of the reasons Hakan Yurt says he created the Glebewood-based Gymaze was because he was paying for a gym membership, but he wasn’t going. Similar to New York’s ClassPass, people can use the service to get access to a network of participating gyms without getting tied down.

“Why should I not create a platform that allows me to go to any studio at any time?” Yurt said.

The current model of Gymaze allows users to buy one, five, 10 or unlimited passes to a studio each month.

In a few weeks, Yurt plans to change that model so a single pass to a gym will cost $5, a pass to a class will be $12 and a pass for a session with a personal trainer will cost $50.

Yurt says there will also be a “pool” model, where users can get up to 50 percent off their workout if they bring a friend to any gym or class.

Yurt also wants to address a problem he sees in the workout industry, which is a lack of motivation for gym and class users.

His solution is to partner with local nonprofits, so people can work out for a good cause. For every purchase of a pass, Gymaze plans to allow users to send some of the proceeds to one of a select group of charities.

Some of the non-profits partnering with Gymaze include: Thrive DC, Special Olympics Virginia, Global Giving and Back on My Feet DC chapter.

“We are not here purely for money or profit,” Yurt said.

Beyond that nonprofit partnership, Yurt believes Gymaze’s business model will help it stand out from its competitors. Namely, he notes that (unlike ClassPass) Gymaze doesn’t require users to pay for a recurring subscription, which Yurt said can get costly if a user forgets to cancel.

With the new “pool” model, Yurt also hopes that Gymaze will become the most affordable option on the market.

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